The primary goal of this project is to determine whether a commercially available soft bifocal contact lens with a distance-center design can slow myopia progression in children. Using soft bifocal contact lenses to manipulate the peripheral optics of the eye is a novel use for a standard contact lens that may keep children from becoming as nearsighted as they would otherwise. Secondary goals are to determine whether the amount of myopic defocus imposed on the peripheral retina by soft bifocal contact lenses is associated in a dose-dependent manner with slowed myopic progression and to determine whether peripheral myopic blur acts to slow eye growth locally or globally. These important pieces of information will enable investigators to learn about the role of peripheral optics for regulating eye growth, which could ultimately lead to optimization of optical signals to slow myopia progression. Ultimately, the information could be used to design optical devices to prevent the onset of myopia in young children. Slowing myopia progression or eventually preventing myopia onset could potentially affect approximately 60 million children in the United States alone. While the consequences of myopia are rarely sight-threatening, the quality of life for myopic patients is negatively affected, and the health care costs to treat myopia are astronomical (approximately $4.6 billion in 1990). The National Eye Institute recognizes the need to "evaluate the efficacy of potential treatments for delaying the onset or for slowing the progression of myopia, such as lenses that alter peripheral defocus." Using a common treatment of myopia (contact lenses) to potentially slow myopia progression and to learn about optical signals that regulate eye growth is a very novel approach to solving a problem that affects a large proportion of people in the United States.
Myopia affects approximately one-third of people in the United States, and approximately 60% of them become myopic during childhood. The results of this study have the potential to lead to important information regarding optimization of the signals that may lead to slower eye growth, which could reduce the progression of nearsightedness and eventually prevent the onset of myopia in children.